A Landon Donovan corner kick set up the only goal the Galaxy needed Sunday in Seattle, with Juninho scoring off the assist in the 54th minute of a 2-1 playoff loss to the Sounders that nonetheless sends the Galaxy on to next week’s Major League Soccer Cup final at the StubHub Center.
MLS changed its postseason rules this season to make away goals the first tiebreaker should a playoff series end even on aggregate goals. The Galaxy won the first game of the two-leg Western Conference championship last week, 1-0. So when Seattle scored twice in the first half Sunday, the Sounders went in front.
But Juninho’s goal, his first since September 2013, evened the aggregate score, sending the series to the tiebreaker, which favored the Galaxy.
The goal came after Donovan’s corner kick bent into the middle of the penalty area untouched. Omar Gonzalez got a piece of the ball as it bounced out of the 18-yard box toward Juninho, who charged in between two defenders and unleashed a wicked right-footed shot from about 20 yards.
The ball clanged off the inside of the near post, then ricocheted into the net. Almost unnoticed was the fact Donovan earned an assist on the goal, giving him a record-tying 14 in the MLS playoffs. He already holds the league records for playoff goals and for both goals and assists in the regular season.
The Galaxy had promised to play aggressively and not sit on its lead and it made good on that promise in the first 25 minutes, dictating much of the action against a surprisingly sloppy Sounders team.
But that changed in the 26th minute on a strange play that ended with a sliding shot from Evans into an empty goal.
Galaxy keeper Jaime Penedo, who hadn’t given up a goal in the postseason, came off his line to challenge Dempsey. But Dempsey still managed to fire a shot that bounced off Galaxy defender Dan Gargan to the front of the net, where Evans cleaned it up for a 1-0 lead.
Dempsey made it 2-0 six minutes later, this time sending a blistering shot on goal from the edge of the 18-yard box. Penedo slid over to make the save, only to lose control of the ball briefly, allowing it to bounce off his left arm and roll slowly into the goal.
Donovan announced his retirement at the end of the season in August and since then his teammates have worked to put that off as long as possible. With away goals the first tiebreaker, Donovan can still extend his career one more game if the Galaxy score once in the second half while shutting the Sounders out or finish the game no more than one goal down.
The temperature at kickoff was 32 degrees with a windchill of 27, making it the coldest home game in Sounders’ history.